Firefox 3 fixes what's broke

Firefox 3 fixes what's broke

With its latest version, Mozilla's browser continues to raise the bar for what Web browsers should be.

For example, the protection mechanisms against malware and cross-site scripting actually work. Firefox warns you before you enter sites that have been known to carry malware -- you can continue, if you really want to, but at least you'll know you're heading into trouble. Protection against cross-site scripts -- a.k.a. Web forgery -- goes farther. Firefox 3 won't even show you content that seems to be coming from an illegitimate site or is trying to play break-in games with JavaScript. You can still force Firefox to show you the site's content -- but on your own head be it.

Firefox 3 also gives you more information about the sites you visit than earlier versions did. The drop-down listing of possible addresses that appears when you start typing in an URL has been enhanced to be easier to read and show more information. Clicking on the favicon -- the tiny icon to the left of an URL address -- will give you a window that, hopefully, will show such information as who owns the site, what cookies have been set and other elements that may have been delivered. Unfortunately, that feature isn't all that useful yet -- few Web sites bother with identity information -- but it's got potential.

Another nice feature is that when (as is so often the case) you come across a Web site with an SSL security certificate that's not quite right, Firefox displays enough information about the certificate so you can make an informed decision about whether you want to trust the site or not. It's still an error message, but at least now it's an easy-to-understand error message.

Firefox now asks if you want to save your password only after you've successfully logged in to a Web site. For those of us who always type in passwords wrong the first time, this can be darn handy.

Bookmarking has also been improved. For example, the new Smart Bookmarks folder, which appears in your bookmarks toolbar, automatically picks up and lists your most-often visited pages. Firefox 3 also enables you to add keyword tags to your bookmarks and then sort your bookmarks by these tags.

On a purely aesthetic basis, Firefox will now adjust its look to match that of your Mac OS X, Linux or Windows operating system. This worked perfectly on my XP, Vista, Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and Linux systems running both KDE and GNOME. It sounds small, but I found the overall effect to be surprisingly easy on my eyes.

Care with extensions

If you can't live without a particular browser extension, you'll want to hesitate before immediately upgrading to Version 3. Firefox's new extension subsystem insists that any extension provide a secure Web site for updates; it also changed some of the APIs. Extensions that don't currently support these changes (as of this writing, this included Google Toolbar) won't work with Firefox 3.

On the other hand, you may find that you don't need many extensions commonly used with Version 2. For example, with the new Firefox you can increase text size, so you may no longer need extensions like NoSquint.

Firefox also finally has an improved download manager, which supports interrupted download resumption, so you may not need a third-party download manager. In addition, Firefox can now register Web-based protocol handlers. This means that you can now open mailto and iCal links with your Web application of choice without adding an extension.

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